Features October 2009 Issue

Good Mental Health Helps Keep Heart Health in Check

Research says anxiety and depression can lead to cardiovascular complications, just as poor heart health contributes to mental decline.

A healthy heart depends on many factors, ranging from family history to a proper diet. But research continues to show that one of the most important contributors to heart health is a healthy brain. And likewise, a robust cardiovascular system can go a long way toward reducing your odds of depression, anxiety and stroke. Several recent studies make the case for paying attention to your mental health if you’re a heart patient, and vice versa if you’ve suffered a stroke or mental disorder. For example, in a study published in the August issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, a diagnosis of heart disease immediately boosts your risk of developing depression within a year. And if the diagnosis is depression, your risk of coronary artery disease (CAD) also rises sharply during that first year after diagnosis. Another study, published in the August issue of the journal Circulation, found that women 50 and older who are optimistic are less likely to get heart disease and die of any cause in a given time period compared to women their age who are more pessimistic. The eight-year study included 97,253 postmenopausal women in the government-funded Women’s Health Initiative, and all the women in the study were free of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and cancer at the start of the study.

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